HOUSTON (AP) — The United States (US) government said it will deport a Honduran mother and her two sick children, both of whom are currently hospitalised, to Guatemala as soon as it can get them medically cleared to travel, according to court documents and the family’s advocates.
The family’s advocates accuse the US of disregarding the health of the children, ages one and six, to push forward a plan currently being challenged in court to send planeloads of families to different countries so that they can seek asylum elsewhere.
Both children have been hospitalised in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.
In court papers, the US government has said it intends to deport the family to Guatemala tomorrow, pending clearance “from a medical professional”.
“The mother is desperate. She thought her baby was going to die,” said Dr Amy Cohen, a doctor who monitors the government’s compliance with a landmark court settlement governing how migrant children are treated known as the Flores agreement.
According to Cohen, the family said both children were healthy when they crossed the US-Mexico border without authorization last December.
A lawsuit filed by the family said they were taken first to the US Border Patrol’s processing centre in McAllen, Texas, a former warehouse where migrants are held in large fenced-in pens, then to a complex of tents built at the port city of Donna, where they were held for several days longer than the Border Patrol’s own 72-hour limit to detain people.
The lawsuit blamed the children’s illnesses on inadequate medical care and the food served at the Donna tents.
The one-year-old has diarrhea and a fever, while the six-year-old was diagnosed with the flu.
US President Donald Trump’s administration struck a deal last year with the Guatemalan government to take in asylum-seekers from Honduras and El Salvador, and has since said it will send Mexicans to Guatemala as well.
The US also announced similar deals with Honduras and El Salvador.
Lawyers for the mother and her two children have asked a federal judge in South Texas to order the government not to deport them.
Their lawsuit alleges that after the mother said she feared returning to Honduras — where she said gangs demanded monthly payments or they would kill her and her children — she “was instructed that she could either return to Honduras or be sent to Guatemala and had to decide immediately.”
“She was not given an opportunity to explain why she feared being sent to Guatemala, where she has no family or contacts and would have difficulty providing for herself and her children,” the
lawsuit said. In its response, the government said the infant would be monitored by the hospital for a few more days to ensure she can be deported. It also argued that the judge had no authority to prevent the family’s deportation because higher courts have recognised that the Attorney General’s office can decide on its own if and when to deport someone.